A sweet business akin to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory once occupied the northeast corner of 14th & State in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Erie Pepsin Gum Company made chewing gum, candy sticks, chocolate and marshmallows at the turn of the 20th Century in its factory at 1329 State Street. I climbed up to the railroad bridge to shoot a "then and now" photo, but the neighborhood has changed so much that it made more sense to superimpose the old factory on top of the current building to show you where it was. The Mercantile Building site was an empty lot when the old photo was taken around 1906.
Frank D. Schultz formed the Erie Pepsin Gum Co. in 1900. It had a factory and retail business in the same building. Here is an excerpt of an article which describes the business: "There are rows and rows of rare colored stick candy, and piles and piles of taffy, which almonds, and peanuts, and other delectable nuts nicely imbedded...There are numberless varieties of chocolates in all shapes and sizes; peanut croquettes and delicious crystalized fruits.
They used to pull candy by hand in this factory...but now it is pulled on a big machine...This machine is driven by a 3 horsepower Federal Electric Co. motor...They put about 60 pounds of sweetness on this candy puller.
The expensive grades of candy are made in the moulding department...The liquid chocolate is poured in, and then the moulds are put away in coolers and soon they are ready for the finishers and for the pretty decorated boxes. You have all eaten marshmallows. Well here they make them in a kettle containing 250 pounds of a delicious mixture."
Originally, the company manufactured chewing gum exclusively, and then added other products. "The chewing gum is made simply from chicle and sugar. This chicle is the sap of a certain tree in Mexico and the Mexican government controls the output. It comes in a crude form with the bark on, and it is difficult to entirely get rid of this bark. Whenever you find dark spots in your chewing gum, therefore, do not accuse the makers of being careless or undervaluing cleanliness- it is simply a piece of chicle bark, which has not been removed.
'Our business is going along beautifully,' said Mr. Schultz. 'It has more than trebled since our start five years ago. We have 22 on the pay roll, and will start working nights on November 1. Our trade embraces not only Erie and the contiguous country, but also includes a territory within a radius of 150 miles from Erie,' said Frank Schultz. -Erie Daily Times, Oct. 24, 1905. Times Publishing Co., 205 W. 12th St., Erie PA 16534
Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie